Beverly in March tested a sensor-equipped van that evaluates not only the surface of roads but also what lies beneath.

The technology, developed at Northeastern University and christened “VOTERS” (Versatile Onboard Traffic Embedded Road Sensors), gathers road-condition data in a variety of ways, including the use of radar to assess subsurface road conditions and a laser sensor that can help discern whether roads have appropriate drainage. Other features gauge pothole depth and precise locations of potholes and cracks.

According to the project’s website, ( the sensor technology has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of maintaining streets and roads.

“It’s going to be a tool that will help us understand what the [road] conditions are and what the best rehab method is,” said Michael Collins, Beverly’s commissioner of public services and engineering. “And then you can go back and analyze roads you just built, and say what in retrospect worked and what didn’t work, and weed out the technologies that are useless.”

Until now, road-health technology has consisted of “a couple of technicians driving around doing a [visual] survey of your streets,” Collins said. “We’re talking about replacing that with a van packed with technology that’s capturing not subjective information but actual qualitative data.”

That Beverly was the first municipality to test the technology was a matter of timing, according to Collins. He said he quickly replied to an email from Northeastern inviting him to attend the unveiling of the VOTERS technology.

“Almost immediately after I hit ‘send’ my phone rang,” Collins said.

On the other end was Ming Wang, a Northeastern engineering professor who led the development of the van’s sensor technology.

Once Wang and Collins met, “We struck up a good relationship,” Collins said. “I understood what he was trying to do, and he understood what they needed next – someone who could help them bring this out into the real world, and work the bugs out of it.”

Boston, which in recent years has been refining its “Street Bump” app for gauging potholes, is also interested in trying out the Northeastern technology, the city’s chief public works engineer, Katie Choe, told the Boston Globe.

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